The future’s viral: guerrilla advertising takes off


The future of viral advertising seems assured, as companies look increasingly to exploit social media in order to launch and promote their products. The advantages for companies, particularly smaller businesses looking to create a distinctive image and reputation, are numerous, not least the economic benefits of guerrilla advertising campaigns that cost little but take on an impetus of their own and reach large audiences. However whilst the tactic can be hugely effective if exploited properly, it also puts companies at risk of criticism for their unconventional methods- viewed superficially, Red Bull’s approach effectively involved synchronised litter, leaving them open to environmental criticism, a concern also relevant to the recent balloon bombardments in Oxford. Outlandish marketing techniques need also be approached with caution, with numerous past campaigns reflecting the fine line between the successful and the disastrous. The profile of the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall was unforgettably (and perhaps unfortunately) raised in America in the run up to its release with a series of posters across the States featuring slogans such as “You suck Sarah Marshall”, creating something of an internet sensation as real Sarah Marshalls posted responses online with similar phrases aimed at its director. An attempt to promote the profile of an internet gambling site at the 2004 Athens Olympics in which a man with the website’s logo drawn on his stomach dived into the Olympic pool saw him arrested, charged with offences including trespassing. Ultimately however, even those campaigns that don’t succeed quite as envisaged generate publicity about a product (albeit of a negative variety), and still serve to create buzz about advertising techniques ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. In Oxford as elsewhere, guerrilla advertising therefore looks set to remain as innovative as it is lucrative for the foreseeable future.

Polly Clayton-Hatfield



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